Looking for the best way to install a hardscape patio? This is a step-by-step guide to patio installation using methods that are simple and cost-efficient.
The simplest way to install a patio without breaking the bank is to use cement pavers. Start by deciding on the pattern you want, then prep the area. Next, install the foundation, lay the pavers and add sand.
This article is a step-by-step guide to building a paver patio. Learn how to prepare the area for the pavers and how to lay the foundation. We’ll cover exactly how to lay your pavers, including the edging and customizing the sizes. Then, we end it all by adding polymeric sand and why this step is so important.
I’ve been gathering information on this topic for months now. Our deck is in desperate need of a rebuild, but we have a slumlord who will never put money into something so menial to him. So, if we want it done, we’ll have to do it ourselves. That means finding the most inexpensive way to build a deck. According to my research, pavers are the winners. The same goes for patios.
Choose Patio Paver Patterns
The first step to DIY patio installation is to plan out the pattern you want to create. I found three simple patterns that look good in smaller spaces. For a more traditional look, install cobble-style or rectangular pavers laid in one of the patterns below:
1. Basket Weave Patio Paver Pattern
Use rectangular pavers to create basket weave patterns in block designs. For a unique approach, create modular designs by alternating the directions you lay the pavers in or infuse other color tones.
2. Herringbone Patio Paver Pattern
Just like a herringbone chain, this pattern involves laying rectangular pavers down in a zig-zag pattern. For a little more pizzazz, add a border along the edges of your beds that contrasts in color.
3. Running Bond Patio Paver Pattern
A running bond paver pattern gives your garden a classic look. Simply lay the pavers in straight rows in the same direction. Or make the look more creative by changing up the pattern directions and adding borders and a few extra color tones.
Prepare to Lay Patio Pavers
DIY projects require preparation. This is key to successfully installing a hardscape patio. These are the steps to preparing the area so you can lay your pavers:
Step 1: Mark the Area
Use strings to mark the area where you plan to lay the pavers for your DIY patio install. You can also use batter boards, which are simply two stakes with string supported by a crosspiece.
Step 2: Level the Area
Your ground must be level or your pavers will wobble or just not look very nice. One of the easiest ways to level the dirt is to build the soil up, rather than making it lower. The latter requires tilling the dirt, which is much more work, time and energy.
Mark off how high you want the ground leveled. You can use a yard flag, mark the point on a nearby wall using chalk or however you choose. Then add fill dirt to the area until you reach your desired height. Use a leveler to ensure the ground is leveled.
Need help using a leveler? Check out this YouTube video from DIY Pinto.
Step 3: Create a Slope
This area needs proper drainage so water doesn’t just sit on the pavers. But you don’t want water to drain toward the house because this could cause major structural damage over time.
Instead, make the patio slope in the opposite direction from the house. The slope should drop about 1-inch every 4-feet. To inspect the slope as you create it, use a 4-foot plank with 1-inch blocks of wood attached at each end or use a leveler.
Step 4: Dig Around the Perimeter
There are actually two common methods used for removing the dirt, grass, sod and/or weeds around the perimeter of the patio:
Use a shovel to dig up the matter around the perimeter. Use the height of the base and pavers to determine how deep you should dig. You want the pavers sitting just above the level of the ground. Dig just below the strings used to mark off the area to about six inches outside the string. This creates enough room to lay the pavers themselves directly onto the dirt.
This method requires patience. Simply lay cardboard down under the string around the perimeter. Use rocks or anything heavy to keep the cardboard in place. Water it regularly.
In a matter of weeks, the cardboard will smother all the grass and other living matter underneath it. Then, you can move on to step five.
Step 5. Lay Lighting
If you plan to install landscape lighting, this is the time to do it. Go ahead and lay the cables while the trenches are still open.
Step 6. Compact the Soil
Now, it’s time to make sure the soil is compact and firm. Use a hand tamper to compact the soil. Or you can place a board down within the area and walk on it. Continue moving the board around until the entire area is compact.
Install the Foundation
Before installing the pavers, you must install a stable foundation for them. Here are the steps to installing a hardscape patio foundation:
Step 1. Lay Gravel Base
A gravel paver base will act as the main support for your patio. Add it in 2-3-inch layers before wetting the gravel and compacting it. Continue this pattern until the base reaches about 6-inches high while ensuring that the slope is consistent.
Step 2: Build Retaining Wall
What is a retaining wall? It’s a structure that acts as a wall to retain or hold soil within a bed behind the wall itself. Build yours right on top of the gravel base. Use the materials of your choice. Some material ideas include:
- Poured Concrete
- Concrete Pavers
- Treated Timbers
- Concrete Blocks
Step 3: Set Depth of Paver Sand
You’ll need two long PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes in 1-inch diameter each. Lay them across the area to help you determine the right depth for your paver sand. They are just for leveling the sand itself, as you’ll remove them before the pavers are laid.
Step 4: Pour and Level Paver Sand
Lay a 2X4 along the PVC pipes to ensure your lines are straight. Pour paver sand and use the 2X4 to ensure the sand is level. Continue moving the 2X4 across the patio until the entire area is filled with sand and the surface is flat. Remove the PVC pipes. Then, fill in the gaps left behind with more paver sand.
Lay the Pavers
Laying pavers in common, uniform patterns can be pretty simple. However, it can be slightly more complicated when creating unique patterns when you install a hardscape patio. Here are the general steps to laying patio pavers:
Step 1: Lay Paver Edging
Insert sticks or PVC pipes in the ground and run string along them low to the ground. This acts as a guide to help you keep the pavers straight.
Install edging by laying pavers around the perimeter of the patio, starting at a hard edge, like up against the wall of the house. Leave small gaps in between the pavers for the sand you’ll add later.
Step 2: Level the Pavers
During your DIY patio paver install, check regularly to ensure that the tops of your bricks are even. You can add sand beneath them to raise them up. To make them lower, use a rubber mallet to tap them down.
Step 3: Inspect the Rows
Be sure to keep the blocks and rows in straight lines. Use a straightedge to accomplish this while keeping the slope intact. You can also use a leveler.
Step 4: Install Paver Restraints
Now, you need to install something to keep the pavers in place. Paver restraints or other types of edging will do the trick. Just install them around the perimeter of the patio using spikes inserted about every 1-foot or so.
Step 5: Cut Pavers for Customization
As you near curves and corners, some of the blocks may not fit. Mark the pavers to indicate where they need to be cut. Clamp each one down onto a steady workspace, and use a concrete blade and circular saw to make the cuts one at a time.
Pour Polymeric Sand
Adding polymeric or jolting sand helps keep weeds from sprouting up between the bricks. It also helps keep them in place while giving the patio a finished look. Here are the steps for pouring sand to install a hardscape patio:
Step 1: Pour Sand Between Bricks
Now that the pavers are where you want them, it’s time to secure them in place. Ensure that the pavers are 100% dry. Then, pour the polymeric jointing sand between each paver to help keep them intact.
Use your hand, a broom or a hand tamper to sweep the sand into the cracks between the pavers. Tap the pavers to settle the sand. Add more and continue repeating the process as needed.
Step 2: Remove Extra Sand
Completely remove any excess sand from the pavers. A leaf blower will make this step easy. If any extra sand is left behind on the bricks, a white haze will appear when they become wet or moist. The haze will remain permanently.
Spray the area lightly with the water hose to remove any dust or sand left behind. Also, remove any unnecessary cardboard or weed barrier around the patio’s perimeter. Allow the area to dry for 24 hours before walking on or disturbing the pavers.
Clean Patio Pavers
To maintain your patio pavers, clean them using a pressure washer at least once per year. For instructions on doing this as well as regular cleaning, follow the tips below:
1. Use Water and Soap
Clean your pavers using Dawn or some other liquid dish soap. Just put a few drops of soap in a mop bucket and fill it with water. Use the solution to lightly scrub dirty spots with a rag. Then, mop the entire area clean.
2. Use Simple Green
Looking for a detergent that’s free of harsh chemicals? Simple Green is an awesome product for cleaning pavers without ruining them with discolorations.
3. Water and Vinegar
White vinegar is a natural ingredient that works great at touching up patio paver stones. Do not use darker-colored vinegar because it may stain your bricks. Mix the white vinegar with water and let the concoction sit on the stones for about one hour. Then, use water and soap to remove any harsh stains before washing the pavers down with the water hose.
4. Sweep with Broom
Because your pavers are installed outdoors, they will quickly become caked up with dust, dirt and possibly mud. So, get out there weekly and sweep them down with a broom. Also, if the weather forecast says rain is coming, give them a quick sweep to remove any leaves, which may stain the bricks if they get wet.
5. Pressure Washing
For a thorough cleaning, wash down the patio using a pressure washer to break down any buildups and get rid of tough stains. Remember that spills, dust, grass, debris and leaves can leave marks on your pavers. So, be sure to wash them away thoroughly.
If you don’t have access to a pressure washer, put your water hose nozzle on full blast and use that instead to remove harsh stains. For areas where tough stains don’t exist, be gentler by keeping the nozzle on a lower setting.
When pressure washing your patio, try not to put the stream directly over the joints. Hit the pavers themselves instead. If some of the sand becomes displaced accidentally, just brush it back in between the joints when you’re done.
Also, you may need to pour a new layer of polymeric jointing sand. Simply apply a light mist of water to the area to harden it. Now that you understand how to install a hardscape patio, get going so you can start enjoying yours.
About THE AUTHOR
Kiesha Joseph is an avid gardener dedicated to simple urban gardening on a budget. She enjoys sharing her Zone 9B Inland Empire, California experiences, as well as inexpensive DIY landscaping techniques. She loves experimenting in the garden, even if the project seems to be a failure. According to her, she does not learn from her successes. She learns from her failures. And that’s why she is determined to keep experimenting.Read more about Kiesha Joseph